SEES-ing Young Minds with Science

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Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences

SEES-ing Young Minds with Science


Alisha Wiedmeier, SPS Member, St. Catherine University

SPS volunteers assist students in getting motors to run using a battery, a coil, and a magnet.This past January, my research team and I attended the winter meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) in Orlando, Florida. We are undergraduate students at St. Catherine University, a small, private institution in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We value outreach, especially as we are an all-women institution, so when the opportunity arose to volunteer at an AAPT-SPS outreach event during the meeting, we were excited to help.

Students Exploring Engineering and Science (SEES) is a free outreach event that targets elementary and middle school students from underserved communities near the location of the AAPT Winter Meeting each year. The event is led by SPS staff, students, and faculty members.

When my team arrived, we saw the work that other volunteers had already completed in preparation for the event. It was truly amazing to see the variety of physics-loving people that were coming together to teach a younger audience. Even more astonishing were the types of activities that these students would be engaging in—upper-level experiments presented in a manner that helped everyone feel like a physicist for the day!

As the participating students entered, their excitement was obvious. Brad Conrad, the director of SPS, sat them down and introduced the SPS undergraduate volunteers. Each volunteer talked about their personal physics journey and how they became interested in science. This created a unique atmosphere, highlighting how scientific disciplines overlap.

After introductions, the students rotated between four stations: circuits, light diffraction, motors, and collisions. I love to teach people about circuits, so I was happy to work at that station. The unit included creating different circuits, in series and parallel, and incorporated cool attachments—fans, sirens, and light bulbs. The students were passionate about the hands-on activities and loved making connections and working as a team. To build their scientific confidence, I encouraged them to shout out answers, even if they were wrong. Even students that came into the activity with insecurities about circuits, or science in general, were laughing and having fun by the end of the rotation.

When all of the rotations were complete, we reconvened as a large group for lunch. It was powerful to see people of all ages engaging with so much joy, inspired by a shared physics experience. I loved that these students got the chance to learn and embrace this awesome scientific world, thanks to SPS and AAPT. When I first introduced myself at this event, I took a moment to really look at the group of fourth and fifth graders. For the first time in my life, I realized that outreach is about so much more than me. By investing in these future scientists, we invest in the future of science.

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Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences